Sudden Shifts

They say there’s a “ten minute rule” in southeastern Michigan: if you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes. It’s an exaggeration, but only somewhat. We have weather that slides up the Ohio river valley and weather that slides down from Canada, and they seem to have a lot of fun with each other. I left town for a few days with the yard looking like this,

and returned to find it looking like this.

Those are not black and white photos; that’s what it has today for “color.” It seems all the more amazing to me because I spent the previous forty years in Southern California, where there is only one weather forecast for May through November. I can recite it by heart, but will spare you. December through April aren’t much different.

My immediate task is to get out the rake and knock the wet, heavy snow off the branches of various shrubs before they break under its weight. This is fun – organizing my own mini-blizzards. I could grab the ends of the branches and shake them, but the rake keeps me far enough back that the snow doesn’t land on me.

The ground’s not frozen yet, but I’m still glad I got the bulbs planted before I left. The air is cold. A thin coating of ice gathers on the handles of my tools, and when I pick them up it melts coldly onto my gloves. But next week it could be (relatively) warm again.

I’ll let you know.

Bright November

above, belowIt takes a lot of walking in autumn leaves, planting bulbs, and puttering in the garden to get some peace these days amid the slogans and shouting. Nature, at least, is ready for change: leaves turn bright and fall away, juvie eagles are gone to fish in open water somewhere else. We’ve had a rainy October and the colors were late in coming, but here they are, lighting up trees before drifting down to mulch the winter ground, the end of one growing season and preparation for another.autumn depth 2

Yard and garden give us concrete things to do to bring success, and I am grateful to them for that clarity: observe their needs, nurture them, and be rewarded with fruit and flowers, usefulness and beauty, which seem otherwise to be in short supply.

I have planted a hundred more bulbs in front of the house, and a few shrubs in the edges of the woods; I have a few more still to plant. I want glory to come bursting out of the dirt come April, making neighborhood dog-walkers stop and look up from the echo chambers of their smartphones, at least for a moment. I won’t collect their data and sell it to advertizers while they’re looking at my daffodils.